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Western wildfires forcing evacuations in Colorado, New Mexico

The mix of timber, dry grass and steep slopes are making firefighting efforts difficult. Windy conditions are also limiting what can be done from the air by helicopters and air tankers.

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Smoke billows from the Little Bear fire in southeastern New Mexico near Ruidoso Saturday. Spanning only a few acres on Wednesday, the Little Bear fire began to grow Friday as spot fires formed outside established fire lines due to windy conditions. By Saturday morning, about 10,000 acres had been charred northwest of the mountain community of Ruidoso.

Mark Wilson/Roswell Daily Record/AP

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Firefighters in Colorado and New Mexico are battling wind-fueled wildfires that are moving fast through parched forests, forcing scores of evacuations and destroying or damaging numerous structures.

A blaze in northern Colorado was first reported Saturday morning and had grown to about 8,000 acres by mid-evening, while a fire in southern New Mexico was small for a few days until it began growing Friday, reaching about 10,000 acres.

Both fires have damaged property and forced numerous evacuations, but officials haven't yet released specific figures on the numbers who fled.

The wildfire in the mountainous Paradise Park area, about 20 miles northwest of Fort Collins, prompted several dozen evacuation orders.

Larimer County Sheriff's Office spokesman John Schulz said the fire expanded rapidly during the late afternoon and evening and by Saturday night, residents living along several roads in the region had been ordered to evacuate and many more were warned that they might have to flee. An evacuation center has been set up at a Laporte middle school.

Officials didn't specify how many residents had evacuated but said they had sent out 800 emergency notifications urging people to be prepared to evacuate if necessary.

Law officers went door to door to alert people in the evacuation area, but officials were worried that not everyone got the word.

"Right now we're just trying to get these evacuations done and get people safe," Schulz told Denver-based KMGH-TV, adding that "given the extreme heat in the area, it makes it a difficult time for (the firefighters)."

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